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Nonprofit shows positive male role models for Lansing youth

Nonprofit challenging men to give back throws community barbecue

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Lansing dads and dudes unite for this old school barbecue celebrating positive male role models giving back to the Lansing community. The event will feature barbecued food on a donation basis, live music and nonprofit vendors.

Started in 2007, Men Making a Difference or MMAD, helps underserved Lansing youth understand what positive masculinity looks like. The group can be found tutoring youth, doing community service, giving one on one basketball lessons and teaching children how to play chess.

“Preaching we didn’t feel was very useful to them,” Andrew Brewer, president of MMAD said. “We thought action speaks louder than words. I wanted to find a way to give back and thought that young people need to see men give back to their community.”

What started as a community barbecue at Hawk Island Park for 20 or so people turned into a gathering of 1,500. 

The group specifically targeted young black men to mentor. Brewer said along the way, the group found that they weren’t only helping young people, but they were helping themselves.

“What we’ve seen is that there are not a lot of fathers in a lot of homes,” Brewer said. “What we wanted to do is have the young men see that men care about them. Even though they might not have a father, if you work together you can do things and make things happen for them to see it as a way of life.” 

The group focuses on things fathers teach their sons as a rite of passage. They work to show young men how to tie a tie, table etiquette and prepare for job interviews.   

Outside of the celebration, the group hosts an entrepreneur camp, bookbag drive and mentoring at the Boys and Girls Club.

Community service started early for Brewer. He spent his weekends in his early teens volunteering as a candy striper at local hospitals.

“I didn’t tell anyone because it wasn’t cool,” he said. “I was going to the hospital helping people every weekend. Along the way, I got in trouble and did get locked up. But I had the roots to come back.”

Instilling those roots even when someone goes astray is vital, he added.

“Once a young man gets in trouble with the law, the first thing they make them do is community service,” he said. “We want to introduce him to community service positively before that happens. If they start looking at it as something to do once you get in trouble, it is a punishment. We want it to be a way of life in the community.” 

People think what MMAD is doing is revolutionary, but for Brewer who grew up in the African American community, it was like this almost every weekend.

“The families started to stop doing this when the crack epidemic started,” he remarked. “Since then, the family unit has been a struggle. We are trying to bring that back and bring everybody to it. That one spark can change a whole generation.” 

Hip-hop, rhythm and blues acts will be featured performers. On the menu is pulled pork, hot dogs and coleslaw. The event is sponsored by the City of Lansing, Southside Community Coalition and AC&E Rentals.

MMAD Barbecue

Saturday, July 20

From 1 to 6 p.m.

Benjamin Davis Park

5500 Pleasant Grove, Lansing 

(517) 930-1041, www.mmad.us

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